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Early Observations From Eagles Training Camp

BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- The intensity is there. The tempo is high. Players are clearly playing with urgency and passion early in Eagles Training Camp, 2009, and after two practices in pads it is time to let you know what I see, what I think I'm going to see, and whether or not any of this means a thing in a couple of weeks ..


  • Running back LeSean McCoy is making more big plays early in these full-team practices than I think I have ever seen from a rookie. Everything about him has been impressive. He runs low, accelerates well and makes great cuts when he has the football in his hands. As a receiver, McCoy has been nearly flawless. In fact, I can't think of a pass that I have seen him drop all week. I'm sure McCoy hasn't been perfect as far as where he has lined up and the many mental challenges that he faces, but at no time have the coaches stopped a play because he lined up wrong, or ran a wrong route, or headed in the wrong direction out of the huddle.

Maybe most impressive about McCoy is this: He is a physical, attacking, very willing and adequate blocker already. McCoy will continue to work on his strength and mature that way and it will help him become a better blocker, but he is already much better than I expected to see. McCoy threw Quintin Mikell down to the ground in one of his three pass-protection reps on Saturday morning -- he was good on two of the three plays and barely OK on the other one -- and really went after the blitzer, rather than laying back and absorbing the punishment.

And on a great Donovan McNabb-to-DeSean Jackson touchdown pass in the morning when Jackson ran a post and got behind cornerback Joselio Hanson, McCoy and fullback Leonard Weaver (more on him in a moment) did great jobs picking up blitzers. In fact, McCoy opened up his hips and blasted the blitzer on his side.

Yeah, the hype meter here is high for McCoy. He has a lot of work to do, no doubt. The worst thing that can happen is that he thinks he has arrived. I don't think that is going to happen. I think McCoy wants to be a great football player, and if he continues to work hard, the Eagles have somebody who will contribute a lot right away.

  • My analysis of the wide receiver picture minus Jeremy Maclin: Jackson is a standout who is having a huge camp already. He is so much faster than he was last year. He knows where he is going and he has great hands and body control. I just don't think a cornerback can cover Jackson one-on-one, although Sheldon Brown (more on him in a moment, too) did an excellent job in one-on-one drills on Saturday. Kevin Curtis was back on the field after missing time with a thigh contusion and looked OK, but he uncharacteristically dropped a couple of balls and he isn't catching the ball with his usual confidence. Reggie Brown has been terrific, really good. He is making this team and he is playing. Jason Avant runs some of the sweetest routes I have ever seen. Hank Baskett has made a lot of big plays down the field and sure has learned to use his size and strength. Brandon Gibson has flashed here and there and seems to be improving every day. Danny Amendola is really fast and really quick, and he has sure hands. I hope his body holds up in the next two weeks. His size is Amendola's only drawback. The rest of the group works hard and makes a big play here and there, but they don't catch the ball consistently at this point to threaten the top tier of receivers.
  • Jeremy Maclin update: Nothing to report. Frustrating, yes. A blow to the kid, yes. Should he sign very soon, Maclin will have time to cover some of the ground he has missed. Keep your fingers crossed.
  • A great nugget from former offensive lineman Ross Tucker, a rising media star who works for and Sirius/XM NFL Radio: He looked out on the field and loved the depth up front offensively. "You can tell they are well coached and that they are working together," said Tucker. "I don't know if any of those guys are making the team, but they play the right way." That's saying something about the depth up front. It was interesting to hear that. Look out for rookie guard Fenuki Tupou. He is listed as a tackle, but the Eagles have him working at guard and he has shown some promise. So has Mike McGlynn at center. If he can play both guard spots and center, McGlynn can really help this team.
  • Second-year defensive end Bryan Smith needs to play quicker, get off the ball faster and explode into the backfield. I have not seen the burst I hoped to see from him.
  • Cornelius Ingram is having a great week. Flat-out great week. He showed in pass-pro drills that he is an able and willing blocker. Moves his feet nicely. Has pretty good technique and strength. Good start for him.
  • At the same time, please don't lack respect for Brent Celek. He is having a wonderful camp, as sure and confident a player as the Eagles have had at tight end in years. Celek doesn't make mental mistakes, he doesn't drop passes, he blocks well (yes, well) and he runs like a bulldozer after the catch. Celek makes the grab and puts the ball away safely and then runs over people.
  • Darren Howard is every bit as quick as he was last year and is having a tremendous first few days. I think the whole line is playing very well, and I like a lot what Chris Clemons is showing. He learned a lesson in last year's camp: Come to Lehigh in the best shape of your life and be prepared for a physical, taxing training camp.
  • Good battle for the fifth cornerback spot behind Asante Samuel, Brown, Hanson and Ellis Hobbs. Jack Ikegwuonu made a lot of plays on Saturday, and Dimitri Patterson is right there with him. It could very well come down to which player helps more on special teams.
  • Speaking of Sheldon Brown, there is no player having a better training camp. He looks outstanding. Brown told me during an interview on Training Camp Live!, presented by Remax that one of his get-in-shape routines this spring was wakeboarding. Brown did it in South Carolina on a lake where he owns a new home, and he boarded on one leg, on the other leg and in the more traditional sense to help his balance and develop his core. It's amazing how varied workouts have become. It sure worked for Brown.
  • Great crowds so far for training camp. Enthusiastic, large, very hungry for good football. They are seeing good football.
  • OK, Leonard Weaver. And more from Ross Tucker, who raved non-stop about Weaver on Saturday. "He is so much faster than I thought," said Tucker. "He is going to turn out to be a great signing by the Eagles. Weaver has looked superb. He is a very good blocker, a receiver who actually ran a "go" route and caught a pass behind the defense in passing drills, and a runner who has some wheels and power. Need somebody to carry the ball on short yardage? Consider Weaver, please. He looks great.
  • Sav Rocca is a much more consistent punter than he was a year ago. I'm really liking the attention to detail and the attitude of new special teams coordinator Ted Daisher. Ken Parrish is punting well, too, but Rocca has an advantage here. The games will likely be the deciding factors in this battle.
  • Closest battle at camp for a starting job: WILL linebacker. Both Akeem Jordan and Omar Gaither are playing well. Gaither has really come on. He looks like he is playing desperate football.
  • Not sure if I like the third tight end situation right now. Matt Schobel is struggling a bit. With these two young, big tight ends here, Schobel isn't keeping up. Eugene Bright is a raw prospect. Schobel will get better, as veterans do, and he needs to come around to have a better comfort level at this spot on the roster.
  • I'm going to tell you this about Quintin Demps: He plays fast football. He runs tremendously well and breaks on the ball very quickly. The way the Eagles practice in "live" (full contact) sessions, the No. 1 offense plays the No. 2 defense and the No. 1 defense plays the No. 2 offense and then the third team on both offense and defense play against each other. Demps has been dominating in those sessions. The entire No. 1 defense has, really. Very fast group.
  • Love the way secondary coach Brian Stewart shows his intensity and his emotion to his players.
  • One of the best drills I've watched in camp was the pass protection one, which I have referenced already. McCoy was good there. Weaver was great, etc. Lorenzo Booker was not adequate in those drills, and was actually instructed on the spot by head coach Andy Reid. Booker must improve his blocking or it will be very difficult for him to help the offense. Booker is running the ball well and is making plays there, but he must be more complete.
  • Jackson and Amendola are returning punts so far, and I see this as a natural way for Maclin -- when he signs -- to get on the field. I don't think I want Jackson returning punts, and Amendola is a long way from making this roster.
  • From what people tell me, the linebacker depth here is as good as it has ever been. Looking forward to watching that group more closely in the days to come.
  • Tickets are available at the Lincoln Financial Field box office for Eagles Flight Night!, which begins at 5 p.m. It is going to be an awesome night of football and fun, so get down to Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday night.
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